A CHRISTMAS CAROL at Het Amsterdams Theaterhuis

The people responsible for last night’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol (James Johnson and Hugh Mackay) made the intelligent choice of minimising the amount of narration in it. This was not one of those productions where you leave the theatre feeling cheated, reflecting that you would have been better served by simply staying home and rereading the original text.

The actor playing Scrooge, Casey Goodman, was superb, particularly at the beginning of the play: he chose to depict the character as twitchy and irate rather than the monster of vituperation to which we have become accustomed. The ghosts – all played by one man, Eli Thorne – were also a triumph. The Ghost of Christmas Past was faceless, his entire form shrouded in a white veil, and he spoke with a voice that was both amplified and distorted by special effects. The Ghost of Christmas Present was a garrulous, cheerful, sybaritic figure; the audience seemed to enjoy Eli’s performance more than any other in the play. The Ghost of Christmas Future was also faceless, also veiled (in black, not white), and he entered the stage on all-fours – an artistic decision that succeeded in making his inhumanity seem bestial as well as spectral. 

It is a sad fact that most people are now familiar with A Christmas Carol through the Muppets’ 1993 film adaptation. Last night’s production paid an acknowledgement to this by way of an opening joke in which a muppet was ousted from the stage. In the play’s concluding scene, when Scrooge, now cured of his miserliness, has set about organising a Christmas feast for the various people whom he has mistreated (Martin Amis once astutely remarked that is the fate of all of Dickens’ villains to be either ‘tritely punished or implausibly converted’), one of Bob Cratchit’s children discovers this same muppet lying beneath the Christmas tree. A nice dig, I thought.     Jacob John Shale   4th December 2022